Artificial Limbo: The Moral Quandary of Frozen Embryos
where in vitro fertilization takes place." DP, 18.
Like the mother intent on infanticide in Seamus Heany's poem, those scientists and physicians as well as patients who participate in this mockery of procreation stand in moral shallows, ducking the issue. Their souls, like the wrists of the murderess in Heaney's poem, are "dead as the gravel." Their consciences have been torn open, rendered raw, as if a "minnow with hooks"--a fishing lure full of hooks--had been forcibly yanked out of the tender flesh of a woman's birth canal.
Were we to go to such cryopreservation facilities, we would be confronted with a veritable man-made limbo. Thousands upon thousands of human embryos--live human souls trapped in their tiny frozen "body" in strange-looking vats--whose natural development has been suspended. One count has these poor frozen souls numbered at 396,526 in the United States alone.
Modern man is not only acting as though he is the lord of life and death. Modern man has now claimed the space between life and death. He has said: "Now limbo will be a cold glitter of souls," packed in liquid nitrogen.
What can be done with the "cold glitter of souls"? The question presents a moral quandary.
Modern man finds himself in this quandary because he has done this even while "under the sign of the cross." Modern man has spurned the teachings of the Church, has spurned the natural moral law. His technological prowess will not be limited by the "inconvenience" of ethics. And it may be that, as a result of his hubris, modern man has painted himself into a moral corner.
The Church herself has asked the question: "With regard to the large number of frozen embryos already in existence the question becomes: what to do with them? Some of those who pose this question do not grasp its ethical nature, motivated as they are by laws in some countries that require cryopreservation centers to empty their storage tanks periodically. Others, however, are aware that a grave injustice has been perpetrated and wonder how best to respond to the duty of resolving it." DP, 19.
Due the respect due to persons, these embryos cannot be allowed to die. They cannot be used for research. They cannot be used as a treatment for infertility. These are all clearly immoral options. Some have suggested a form of "prenatal adoption" as the means out of the moral dilemma. While this last proposal is "praiseworthy with regard to the intention of respecting and defending human life," it still suffers from moral problems that plague the clearly immoral options, though here, the Church's condemnation seems a little softer perhaps in the hope of arriving at some future answer. DP, 19.
But at this time, the Church is perplexed. "All things considered, it needs to be recognized that the thousands of abandoned embryos represent a situation of injustice which in fact cannot be resolved." DP, 19.
The Church cannot give guidance to modern man who has irresponsibly placed himself in a moral quandary. Her theologians are working on it, but so far no clear solution has been found.
With respect to the thousands and thousands of frozen embryos, the Church seems as yet to have found no way out of modern mankind for its sins. By its prior sins, modern mankind has put itself in a moral dilemma. It is wrong to keep these embryos a permanent cryogenic state. It is appears wrong in any manner to dispose of them.
We have put some of our own kind in limbo. A man-made limbo. And with reckless disregard of the rights and dignity of the embryo, we keep condemning more of our kind in the frozen chambers, frozen chambers like a sort of Dantean hell where--can it be so?--
Even Christ's palms, unhealed,
Smart and cannot fish there.
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: in vitro fertilization, frozen embryos, limbo, IVF, Gospel of life, dignity of life, embryonic persons, Andrew Greenwell
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